After three months of COVID-19 shutdowns, Governor J.B Pritzker of Illinois has finally given casinos and video lottery gaming operators a thumbs up to reopen starting 9:00 am on 1st July. 10 casinos in the state, alongside over 36,000 video slot machines across over 7,300 truck shops, restaurants and bars were forced to close following a shutdown order on 16th March to reduce the potential spread of the novel virus. The resumption of operations for casinos and video slot machine terminals is part of the state government’s Phase 4 plan for reopening after the pandemic crisis.
The Prairie State joins the likes of Arizona, Connecticut, and Nevada in the reopening of gaming facilities to try and recover lost revenue since the statewide shutdowns of non-essential businesses back in March. While gaming facilities in Illinois were given a 1st July reopening date, other in-person sectors were given a head start starting last Friday.
Health & Safety at High Priority
As was the case with the states that have already given gambling facilities the green light to get back to business, Gov. Pritzker isn’t taking any chances with the health of his citizens. After announcing the reopening during his Thursday press conference, he emphasized on the importance of adhering to safety standards saying;
“I’m not an expert about how many times you need to wipe down a video gambling terminal to make it safe … Like other activities, we’re trying to do these things in measures, with lots of health and safety guidance. The No. 1 driving factor is people should not get sick while doing those activities.”
Earlier in the month, the Illinois Gaming Board published a set of regulations in anticipation of the resumption of gaming in The Prairie State. An occupancy rate of 50% across casinos was recommended by the board, a model that’s similar to the one Las Vegas casinos followed as part of their reopening guidelines, and it could be adjusted accordingly depending on the public health condition. On top of that, the state gaming watchdog also recommended that both patrons and players in the lobby should at least have “some type of face covering.”
As part of the regulator’s safety guidelines, gaming facilities will be required to put up signs that remind players on the floor about social distancing measures and proper washing of hands to keep the virus at bay. Physical partitions are also supposed to be placed between slot machines that are situated both inside and outside gaming facilities, with adequate spacing out as an extra precaution.
The Gaming Board also instructed operators to offer their staff free personal protective equipment and subject them to daily health screenings to ensure that all employees serve customers with their health intact. As well, employees working on the casino floors will be wiping down and regularly disinfecting all high contact surfaces regularly including roulette wheels, chops, dice, and even cards.
The Aftermath of the Illinois Statewide Closures
The reopening is a sigh of relief for residents across the state given that the shutdown led to over 5,000 losses in jobs for those who worked in the casino industry. According to 2019 records of the three months between March and June from the Illinois Gaming Board, casino properties raked in over $470 million in revenue with more than $114 million collected by the state in form of tax. Video slot machine gamblers across the state on the other hand parted with nearly $587 million over the same period, which translated to almost $147 million in tax for The Prairie State.
Despite the reopening, industry observers indicate that it will take some time before the number of in-person gamblers goes back to normalcy. Playing will all the restrictions will be a different experience for gamblers in this Coronavirus era.